Ane Is Missing (15)    Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival

Undoubtedly one of the highlights of this year’s Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival, David Perez Sanudo’s debut feature had a number of nominations for the 2021 Goya Awards, and scooped up three of the main awards – Best Lead Actress (Patricia Lopez Arnaiz); Best New Actress (Jone Laspiur); Best Adapted Screenplay (David Perez Sanudo & Marina Peras).

In the Basque capital, Vitoria, young mother Lide (Lopez Arnaiz) is a security guard for the company who are building the High Speed Rail link – an extremely unpopular project within the community, given that it means the demolition of housing in the area, and also a youth community facility. Separated from her partner Fernando (Mikel Losada), she is bringing her 17 year old daughter Ane up on her own.

Until one morning, when Ane doesn’t appear for breakfast, Lide finds that her bed hasn’t been slept in. She checks with Fernando, but she’s not with her father, and a visit to school reveals that she has been absent more than she has been there, and when she has attended classes, she’s been argumentative and disruptive. They start to search, but none of her classmates have seen her and the people at the youth centre claim not to have seen her for some days.

Their investigations lead only to assorted rumours and suggestions – she may have gone off with her boyfriend (one of the leaders of the protest movement who have been sabotaging the work on the HSR); she’s pregnant and gone away to have an abortion; she’s run off with the funds raised to help save the youth centre… the only truth they find is that no-one is telling them the truth. And all this time, the unseen Ane casts a shadow over the film, a central character whose absence is almost tangible, to the extent that when she does walk through the door of her home her physical presence is still outweighed by the mystery caused by her disappearance.

Perez Sanudo presents us with a political thriller that takes second place to the drama of a mother/daughter relationship that is hamstrung by the inability of either to communicate. Lopez Arnaiz elicits our sympathy for her really not terribly likeable character, by allowing us to feel that her abrasiveness is largely due to her struggle to keep both a job and to forge a better relationship with Ane.

All in all, this is a film with real depth and an understanding of human nature.

Jim Welsh

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